English Adamites

A radical English sect active during the 1640s, characterized by their controversial beliefs and practices, including Antinomianism.

The English Adamites were a sect active around 1641-1650, primarily in the Greater London area. They were considered the archetypical radicals of the 1640s.

Beliefs and Practices

The Adamites held beliefs that were considered radical and heretical in their time. They were influenced by Antinomianism, a doctrine that suggested that moral law was no longer binding on individuals who were in a state of grace or perfection. This led to a rejection of most civil, moral, and social restraints on behavior. The Adamites, aiming to regain the innocence of Adam and Eve before the Fall, were believed to reject clothing and the false modesty of society, practicing what they considered “divine state of grace” or religious perfectionism.

Activities and Organization

Information about the organizational structure of the English Adamites is scarce and often comes from contemporary critics rather than direct sources. They were said to hold meetings or gatherings in private homes, possibly in various forms of undress, although there is little credible evidence of public displays of nudity. Contemporary drawings and reports often portrayed Adamites in stereotypical and exaggerated ways, used as propaganda by their critics.

Public Perception and Criticism

The Adamites were frequently portrayed as Antinomians by contemporary critics, who accused them of wanton and lewd behavior. This portrayal was not necessarily limited to the Adamites but was a common charge against several radical fringe groups of the period. Publications like Thomas Edwards’s “Gangraene” (1646) used the term Adamite to describe radicals who were seen as opposing traditional moral and religious norms.

Decline and Legacy

Specific knowledge about the English Adamites after 1650 is limited, and their presence in historical records fades. The sect likely did not survive the English Restoration in 1660. The English Adamites remain a subject of interest for their radical departure from the religious and societal norms of their time and are often studied in the context of the diverse religious landscape of 17th-century England.